McEwen's on Monroe is one of those restaurants that seems inseparably connected to its owner. Ten years ago, Mac Edwards, along with his wife Cindy, opened McEwen's -- named after their then-six-year-old niece Frances McEwen Edwards -- in the space vacated by the old Red Rooster restaurant. Mac turned out the food, while his wife waited on customers. As the number of guests grew, so did the staff and the restaurant's space, which expanded to include a bar area and offices in 1999 and a wine cellar for private parties in 2001.
Recently, however, Edwards decided it was time to move on. He's sold the business to Bert Smythe, who will take over the restaurant with business partner and long-time friend John Littlefield at the beginning of February.
"Owning and running a restaurant is a lot of work, and we had a good time doing it," Edwards says. "But now we're at a point where we feel it's okay for someone else to have a good time." Edwards has no plans to retire to Florida or travel the world -- he simply feels its time to step down.
"There aren't many people I would have considered as possible new owners, but I've known Bert for some 20 years and we have worked together on many jobs. I know that's what he wants and I know he can pull it off," Edwards says.
Smythe has an extensive background working in area restaurants. Among his many jobs, he helped open Lulu Grill and worked as its manager. He managed Maxwell's (now Dish) for two years and worked for Erling Jensen at his namesake restaurant for 10 years before taking a position as manager of catering operations at AutoZone Park.
"When I told my boss [I was leaving], he said that when he hired me he knew that we would have this conversation one day," Smythe says. "He knew my passion was the restaurant business."
McEwen's regulars needn't fear. Smythe says that most of the changes will be subtle and customers probably won't notice much of a difference. Edwards will be on-site through May to make the transition as smooth as possible.
-- Simone Wilson